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First Frosts & Winter Blooms


Until now, I have to say it's been a fairly mild and monstrously wet winter, not like the winters of past that urged us to dig out our woolens and crunch over the frosty lawns or find a nice piece of sheet ice to 'skate' over with the kids on the school run. In fact, only yesterday we had our first true frost where I had to brew another pot of tea just so I could deal with the windscreen.

It's a much welcomed event at Pitt Farm because on such crisp days, when the air is clear, we wake up to magical views down the valley and there's a layer of frost on the land and a low veil of fog following the course of the river.

The view towards the farmhouse and our new borders, look somewhat confused at the moment. The beds, which we planted out last spring aren't sure which season they're in, and I only hope this frosty spell doesn't effect those more eager perennials, already showing new growth. We have a few bare spots where summer bloomers have gone below, and I'm left wondering what else might we squeeze in, that will extend interest into these colder months.

Having received two wonderful garden books for Christmas last year, I'm too eager to get my hands in the soil again (a relatively new hobby). In 'Scent Magic', Garden Designer Isabel Bannerman talks about "the understated yet devastating in looks and scent" appeal of Chimonanthus praecox a.k.a Wintersweet.

It took me back serendipitously to 3 weeks earlier, when on family outing at RHS Hestercombe, Patrick and I walked into a small circular courtyard and stumbled into the most intense and dizzying scent. A heady perfume reminiscent of Jasmine yet in the dead of winter, is somewhat baffling and very intriguing to the uninitiated, and so I was delighted to find out it's name and read about its charms in my proving useful already gift 'Scent Magic', not least that it's apparently easy to grow. Note to self... buy Wintersweet for courtyard wall.

Another winter bloom i'm keen to add to the shopping list this year, although not surprising, are Hellebores. For the past 3 winters I've chided myself for ignoring a shady patch of ground next to the dutch barn. The red earth is pleading for cover, and inspired by wedding trends and a penchant for soft, smokey and vintage colours, I can't think what else could be better suited. The slate mauves, dusty pinks and contrasting apple greens offer winter weddings a sophisticated palette of velvet colour, often the envy of many a summer bride.